Jo Burnell

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Editing Services

Structural Assessments and Developmental Editing:

What is involved in a Structural Assessment/Manuscript Assessment Report?

Assessment Reports and Developmental Editing

I read your complete novel and then provide a detailed report on the following aspects of your narrative:

  • Narrative Structure: This includes a discussion of the extent to which you include classic narrative points (the ordinary world/ Inciting incident/ point of no return/ various story climaxes/ denouement etc.) and the success with which you orient the reader, hook them in and propel them safely through the drama.
  • Plot: Is your plot compelling, believable? Do you maintain the internal logic of your world? This includes a discussion of subplots and how these work as part of the whole.
  • Setting: Is there a strong sense of place? How do you achieve this? Is there too much description? Not enough?
  • Characterisation: Are your characters well-developed? Are their actions/words in keeping with their personalities? Are there too few characters? Too many? Does each have a distinct role in pushing your narrative forward?
  • Dialogue and action: Does each scene, each interchange, advance the narrative or slow it down? Is the dialogue fluid/easily read/clunky? Does dialogue maintain the voice of each character? Can different characters be differentiated through their words/actions?
  • Point of View: Whose point of view is the entire narrative written in? Do you maintain this POV throughout? What are the strengths/weaknesses in the current POV?
  • Back Story: Every character has a past, but how much do we need to know? Have you included enough? Too little? Too much?
  • Transitions: This includes examination of opening and closing lines between chapters, scenes and settings, where applicable.
  • Narrative tension/pace: What pushes the story forward? What drives the reader to keep turning the pages? What is working and what is not?
  • Repetition: Do you repeat words/ sentences/information across chapters? What is the purpose of such repetition? Is it beneficial to the narrative?
  • I also provide a short summary of your use of grammar, spelling and punctuation but this is not the focus of the report.

I relate my comments directly to specific parts of your manuscript.

Clients often spend a considerable amount of time considering the issues raised in the manuscript report and whether they want to cut, add and/or change scenes, characters, settings and timelines, among other things.


What is involved in a Developmental Edit?


This service includes a full manuscript assessment, but it goes much further. In addition to the manuscript assessment, the developmental edit is an extremely time-intensive (and therefore costly) exercise, which requires that I read your entire manuscript and edit every page in detail (through tracked changes). I aim to point out every point at which there might be gaps or inconsistencies in your created world, plot, characters, character actions, motivations, character appearances, timelines and anything else that crops up. I highlight places where the reader needs to know more/ less /something different in order to be safely propelled through your story. Issues of dialogue (how to set it out most effectively, including the use of dialogue tags and action tags, or, in rare cases, no tags) are covered in detail. Transitions between scenes and chapters are particularly scrutinised at this level, as the last thing we want is for a reader to walk away because they get confused.


I do not recommend embarking on this intensive assessment unless the story structure, settings, character and timelines are all well-developed.


Copy Editing


Copy Edit:

By the time a manuscript is ready for a copy edit, most of the big picture narrative issues are sorted.


At this stage, the line-by-line issues of vocabulary choice, sentence structure (length, variation, awkward turns of phrase), spelling and punctuation are scrutinised. Any and all remaining narrative gaps, with particular attention to the logical sequences of events, timeline, plot and character consistencies are included.



This service is often provided for writers who choose to self-publish. It is generally not recommended that the editor who has travelled with you through the manuscript assessment, developmental edit and copy edit stages be involved in this proofreading process as they are far too closely involved with the text to be able to see these tiny remaining errors. I refer proofreading services to trusted colleagues rather than risk missing critical errors in text with which I am overly familiar. My trusted colleagues, in turn, refer proofreading work for clients who have travelled with them through the developmental editing stages.

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Jo Burnell Editing Services

I love to support writers in all their projects. Whether you’re looking for a full manuscript assessment, a light proofread, or something in between, I’m happy to oblige.

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